A quick and easy guide for how to get to Inle Lake from Yangon, Mandalay, or Bagan. This travel guide will also be useful to help you plan more transport options and itinerary routes in Myanmar.
Located in the Shan Hills of Myanmar, Inle Lake attracts visitors from far and wide for its unique and authentic cultural charm. From the principal town of Nyaung Shwe, visitors can explore vast floating communities and admire the stilted bamboo houses and stunning floating gardens.
Inle Lake is truly a cultural gem of Myanmar that is also home to one of the world’s most unique lake-dwelling communities. The Intha fisher-folk practice their bizarrely-efficient leg-rowing techniques as they propel their boats across the lake, passing vibrant floating markets and fields of golden spires that dominate the distant shorelines.
Backpackers and travelers in search of an authentic South East Asian destination will relish in the fact that Myanmar is still a relatively unexplored wonder that is yet to fully feel the pressure of mass-tourism. However, you might have noticed that as a result, getting from A to B isn’t as easy or convenient. Well, at least if you don’t know where to start.
How to Get to Inle Lake
So, what are the best options for getting to Inle Lake? The cheapest and easiest option is to take an overland bus. Luckily, there are several well-connected bus routes to Inle Lake departing from popular hubs all across Myanmar.
The option is to take a domestic flight to Heho Airport. However, this airport is a 1-hour taxi-ride from Nyaung Shwe and Inle Lake. Airport taxis are also typically expensive and will cost an additional 25 000 Kyats.
So, unless you’re strapped for time or simply not a fan of long rides, then I’d recommend taking a bus.
Backpacker Option: Getting Around in Myanmar by Bus
Again, the best way to get to Inle Lake, and around Myanmar in general for that matter, is to take overland buses. I’d highly recommend taking the night buses on “VIP” liners for a cheap and comfortable trip.
In this guide, I’ll be detailing how to get to Inle Lake from most of the popular entry-ports in Myanmar using one of the best online transport resources; BookAway.
BookAway partners with local transport agents and networks to list and compare the best land-transport options. This means that I was able to find the best prices for buses and also plan my route flexibly without the risk of getting stamped with a “tourist-tax” from any opportunistic booking agents.
A perk of using BookAway in Myanmar is that they can connect you with local buses, meaning that you’ll always get the local price and get to share the ride with locals as well as other tourists.
You guys know me by now, I’ll always prefer local transport over-organized tours. So, having the ability to check, compare, and independently book local transport online in Myanmar was a no brainer for me.
Private Transport to Inle Lake
Honestly, I found that most overland buses in Myanmar were surprisingly comfortable and spacious. This was especially true when compared to some in India and Sri Lanka.
But, if you’re still not convinced, you can also use BookAway to find private transfers to Inle Lake as well as to many other destinations in Myanmar.
These private transport options are typically minivans which accommodate up to 9 people. These can also be pretty affordable if shared in a large group.
I found that private vans are typically less comfortable compared to Myanmar long-distance buses. This is certainly the case if you choose the “VIP” buses for the extra couple of dollars.
Domestic Flights in Myanmar
If you’re not up for long bus rides, then another option is to take domestic flights. Usually, flights from one city to another in Myanmar cost between $70 – $120 USD.
However, you’ll need to consider that airports are typically a fair distance away from the main tourist hubs. This means that you’ll also need to consider additional airport buses, taxis, or a Grab to reach your final destination.
Bus Routes to Inle Lake
Below I’ve outlined everything you need to know about how to get to Inle Lake from most tourist and transport hubs in Myanmar.
While there are several options to choose from, make sure to check what is included in your fare before making a booking. You can typically expect the following to be included in most long-distance and overnight buses in Myanmar:
- Reclining seats
- Air conditioning
- Blankets (sometimes – bring warm clothes in case)
- Water bottle
- Luggage allowance (usually not too strict on limits, with ample undercarriage storage for backpacks and suitcases)
Getting to Inle Lake from Yangon
Yangon is one of the first destinations in most Myanmar trips due to it being well-connected to several international airports in Asia.
As a result, there are several overnight and day-buses heading to Inle Lake from Yangon’s Aung Mingalar Bus Station. This trip usually takes around 12 hours covering an overland distance of 570KM to reach Inle Lake.
One thing that you’ll need to consider when planning a trip to Inle Lake from Yangon is that this depot can take up to one hour to reach from the city and sometimes even more in rush hour.
Remember that if you’re taking a night bus leaving at 7 or 8 PM, allow at least 2 hours to get to Aung Mingalar station.
Tip: There are local, shared minibusses that depart from Sula Pagoda to Aung Mingalar for approximately 2000 Kyat.
I had a good experience with JJ Express. The bus was clean, the seats were wide and the aircon was cool. I paid roughly 26 000 Kyat for the trip.
Getting to Inle Lake from Mandalay
Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city and the old royal capital of the Konbaung dynasty is another must-visit destination close to several waterfalls and unmissable pagoda wonders.
Getting to Inle Lake from Mandalay is another popular Myanmar travel route that departs from Chan Mya Shwe Pyi Highway Station. While this bus station is much closer to most hotels and hostels in Mandalay than the one in Yangon, I’d still allow at least an hour to get here by taxi, grab, or motorbike-taxi.
Most buses run overnight and take approximately 11 hours, covering a total distance of nearly 300 KM.
I actually completed this leg of the journey in the opposite direction, again with JJ Express, which cost me approximately 23 000 Kyat.
Getting to Inle Lake from Bagan
Bagan is perhaps the most scenic and most epic place to explore in Myanmar.
A common Myanmar travel itinerary is to go from Mandalay > Bagan > Inle Lake > Yangon, meaning that there are ample overland options for how to get to Inle Lake from Bagan.
All long-distance buses from Bagan depart from Bagan Shwe Pyi Highway Bus Terminal, just 10-15 minutes from New Bagan. It’s possible to walk this distance, but most get a cab or motorbike-taxi.
The trip from Bagan to Inle Lake takes approximately 7 hours over 330 KM. Also, there are usually both night and day options to choose from.
If you can’t tell, I had great experiences with JJ Express buses and have no trouble recommending them. Again, I decided to book one of their overnight buses to Inle Lake from Bagan.
Tip: The bus trip from Bagan to Inle Lake is a little shorter than the others. This can spell a very early arrival at Nyaung Shwe. Remember to book accommodation that includes early check-in or one that will let you crash in the common area.
Inle Zone Tourist Fee
Similarly to Bagan, entering the Inle Lake area requires the payment of a tourist fee. This is collected at a check-point just outside of Nyaung Shwe. Your bus driver will stop here, and a collector will board the bus and prompt you for payment to enter.
INLE ZONE FEE: all International tourists are required to pay 15000 Myanmar Kyat (± $10USD) Inle Zone Fee.
Remember that this fee goes a long way to support the communities of Inle Lake.
Where to Stay in Nyaung Shwe and Inle Lake
So, now that you’ve arrived in Nyaung Shwe, it’s time to book accommodation. Below are some of the best places to stay in Inle Lake.
Where I stayed: ABC HOSTEL
This hostel is located in a quiet farmland area just a few minutes’ walk from the main street in Nyaung Shwe. One of my favorite hostels in Myanmar includes breakfast, an affordable restaurant, free bikes, and an awesome upstairs chillout area with a fire pit.
Great value large group accommodation: Trinity Family Inn
This is one of the best-reviewed hotels in Inle Lake. Super close to Mingala Market, this hostel is great for larger rooms with aircon and good Wifi.
Best Luxury Resort: Sanctun Inle Resort
For those wanting the best of the best, you can’t really beat the Sanctun Inle Resort. This is ranked as one of the best resorts in Myanmar and it’s not hard to see why.
More Myanmar Travel Guides and Blogs
I hope that this guide has been helpful in answering your questions about how to get to Inle Lake. If you have any questions, or updated information, please help other travelers out by leaving a comment below.
For now, why not check out more Myanmar travel and adventure guides from the list below.